Phenomenology of Violence describes violence as it manifests in public life. There is very little written on violence that disturbs peace. Violence, per se, is more than physical abuse and it spreads across different realms. Aggression, casteism, child exploitation, coercion, drug abuse, ethnic and religious violence, gender discrimination, naxalism, sexual abuse, suicide, and terrorism are some of the manifestations of violence. Violence occurs in all the three spheres of human functioning --thought, action, and passion. Violence is a part of man's nature and is grounded in his animal origins. Going by Mahatma Gandhi, man is a composite of brute and human elements. Violence is not merely person-based. In addition, we have group violence, identity conflicts, and excesses against nature as well. Violence is involved in all acts of hate and selfishness, whereas nonviolence is grounded in love and altruism. This volume addresses varied aspects of violence: its causes, nature, and solutions. Luminaries such as Albert Schweitzer, Bertrand Russell, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela were some of the prominent protagonists of peace, who denounced aggression, discrimination, violence and war.
At a time of religio-political violence across the globe along with other forms of violence, this volume gives out the message that until we bring about peace in our life, both internal and external, we cannot overcome violence and that the ultimate recourse to peace is nonviolence.
Professor Koneru Ramakrishna Rao is currently Chancellor of GITAM (deemed to be) University. He has the rare distinction of being National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, and Distinguished Honorary Professor at Andhra University. His earlier academic appointments include Professor of Psychology and Vice-Chancellor at Andhra University; Executive Director, Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, USA; Chairman, A.P. State Council of Higher Education, and Advisor on Education, Government of Andhra Pradesh. He published 25 plus books and nearly 300 research papers.
Prof. Rao received numerous honours that include the national award Padma Shri from the President of India and Honorary Doctoral degrees from Andhra, Acharya Nagarjuna and Kakatiya Universities. He was elected as the President of the US-based Parapsychological Association three times, the only Asian to be so honoured.
Sambasiva Prasad, B. is the founding Director of GITAM Centre for Gandhian Studies. After a long career at Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, he was invited by the GITAM, Visakhapatnam, and coordinated the ICPR project on "Phenomenology of Violence" and is currently working on another ICPR project on "Economics and Ethics: A Gandhian Perspective". Prof. Prasad is the Executive Editor of GITAM Journal of Gandhian Studies.
"Phenomenology of Violence" is a project I conceived when I was the Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR). I left it to Prof. B. Sambasiva Prasad to do the groundwork, which he happily undertook. However, it lay buried for over five years in the form of a manuscript consisting of a collection of articles from different well-qualified authors who willingly contributed. It is now being resurrected in the form of a book to see the light of the day. I am glad to be a part of this process and serve as a co-editor. It is my hope that the book would be widely circulated.
We have much written on peace and how it eludes us in spite of our best efforts to preserve it. However, we have very little on violence that disturbs peace, to which the public can relate to. This project is a modest attempt to address this issue. Perennial peace would be a pipe dream unless we understand violence and how we may control it.
Nonviolence, as Mahatma Gandhi made us aware, may be understood in a weak or a strong sense. In its weak sense, nonviolence is merely restraining from violence. In its strong sense, it is positive cultivation of peace. In Gandhi's terms, it is the nonviolence practised by the strong. Consequently, it is left for very few individuals. Nonviolence in the weaker sense is something that most people can relate to and practise. In order that we may promote and cultivate among people the attitude and habit of abstaining from violence, it is necessary that we understand the nature and varieties of violence, and proper ways of avoiding it. There lies the significance of this project.
This volume attempts to describe the phenomology of violence as it manifests in public life. Violence, according to Gandhi, is more than physical abuse. Psychological coercion and exploitation of others and environment for personal gain are among the others included. There is room for violence in all the three spheres of human functioning - thought, action, and passion. If nonviolence is grounded in love and altruism, violence is involved in all acts of hate and selfishness. Love leads to truth and hate begets prejudice and biases one towards being selfish that distorts truth. Nonviolence is thus essential in the pursuit of truth. Satya and ahimsa always go together. Gandhi is unequivocal in saying that it is not possible to seek and find truth without practising nonviolence. It follows that in order to avoid falsehood, one then should abstain from violence.
Regretfully, violence is a part of man's nature. It is grounded in our animal origins. In Gandhi's own view, man is a composite of brute and human elements. We find in man both the devil and the divine. The human endeavour is to resolve this inherent paradox in one's nature. The dialectic of the beast and the human and their synthesis in man's functioning account for human development. Beastly nature is our ground reality. The urge to achieve the divine is our aspiration. Human quest is an attempt to come to a compromise between the two by cultivating virtues of compassion, love, and nonviolence.
Violence is not simply person-based; it is not confined to individual actions against each other. We are painfully aware of violence between groups, violence perpetrated by conflict of identities, and violence against nature. Mahatma Gandhi's insights into the ways of handling violence in all its forms, and the practices he advocated and undertook to achieve this in his lifelong experiments are very instructive. Though they were chronologically dated, they continue to have contemporary relevance. Violence has taken since many ugly forms. Terrorism of the kind we witness today is far worse than anything that Gandhi saw during his lifetime. Tolerance is now at its lowest level. Exploitation has taken numerous forms and manifests in many dimensions. It is now more complex; and therefore addressing it becomes more complicated. Yet, the rationale behind Mahatma's practices is still valid and relevant.
This volume addresses some of these issues. They are many others that deserve discussion. So, this is just a beginning. It is our hope that the publication of this volume would help in some ways to stimulate further work in this important area.
Along with the present volume discussing violence, its nature, and how we may control it, there is need to follow it up with another volume containing profiles of peace. It would be an exercise with the same purpose, but from a different perspective. In this context, studying in depth, besides Gandhi, the contributions of such luminaries as Albert Schweitzer, Bertrand Russell, Nelson Mandela, and many others following them may be appropriate.
CONSIDERING the many facets of violence, an adequate understanding of it cannot emerge unless we study violence as a phenomenon, rather than just a personal or social event. In this extensive project, violence is scrutinized from a variety of perspectives to evolve a coherent understanding of it. The areas examined include: philosophy and violence, theories and models of violence, ideologues and ideologies of violence, the reasons for the avoidance of violence, and its remedies.
The project was interdisciplinary and drew guidance from a national pool of experts. The groundwork was done by Post-Doctoral Research Associates which were appointed after a national search. GITAM University provided the necessary institutional facilities.
Philosophy, although deals with ethics and the philosophy of nonviolence, it scarcely addresses violence per se. In this project, we addressed this lacuna by exploring violence from a philosophical perspective both Eastern and Western.
There are different models and varying connotations of violence. Many moralists consider violence as disease, whereas some scientists see it as a normal and necessary process like digestion. For people like Mahatma Gandhi all violence is an aberration to be avoided. For some, however, the terror and murder we abhor are considered dysfunctions like diarrhoea which is a dysfunction of the digestive system. It is clear that there are several variables, some explicit and others not so explicit, that govern violence and consequently what constitutes violence becomes a matter of considerable debate and a consensual definition more difficult to arrive at. If violence, as one edition of Oxford English Dictionary says, is "behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill", then, how about psychological violence such as verbal assault or "tongue-lashing" that has unmistakable effects on the victims.
Again, does social injustice constitute a form of violence? Structural violence as distinguished from behavioural violence is an important category that has received increasing attention in recent years. Gender violence and the atrocities against the Dalits and weaker sections of our society are examples of structural violence. Tim Jacoby stresses not only the key role of structured violence, but he also calls attention to some other nuances of violence:
Violence may thus be psychological as well as physical, it may be contained within rewards and not simply punishments, and it may be present even though someone is not hurt and there is no subject-to-object relationship. It may also emerge from nonviolent intentions, be latent as well as manifest and include many of the results of the international system's normal operation. Exerted at the level of the structure and not simply the individual behaviour of aggression and warfare, violence may be regarded as present whenever damage is done to a person's potential!
Is violence always other-directed? How about self-inflicted harm as in suicide? Violence is said to refer to person or property. Apparently, the victim of violence is thus the person, who is the centre and the focus. Then, what do we make of harm done to other species of life and the destruction of nature. Do those acts constitute violence?
No less important is the question whether violence is innate in human nature or whether it is a learned form of behaviour. Is violence an inescapable part of human interaction? Alternatively, is violence a selective response acquired by individuals during the process of socialization?
There are further twists to the discussion. Violence may be personal or collective, as it may be carried out by individuals, groups, or states. Again the victims of violence can be individual persons, social groups, or nations at war. Violence may be attributed directly to an act such as physically assaulting someone or it may be seen as an effect attributed indirectly to an act by an individual or an institution, for example, contributing to pollution causing harm and injury to community. Thus violence may be physical or psychological, overt or covert, direct or indirect, collective or individual-centred, intentionally inflicted or caused by negligence.
Further, some forms of violence are socially or legally sanctioned as in the case of war and social uprising, whereas others are abhorred as evil and condemned as immoral. The question arises whether violence is inherently an act of evil and its avoidance a moral imperative. If so, there is then the ethical conundrum, which is implied in the paradox of punishment that involves violence as retribution to violence.
If, however, violence is legitimate under certain conditions, is it the case that violence like force is value-neutral and that whether violence is good or evil is a function of the use to which it is put? Similar questions arise when we consider lawfulness and legal legitimacy of violence. Can we define violence strictly in terms of unlawful actions? Or can one offer a definition entirely in behavioural terms without recourse to law, morality, or political legitimacy. Also, because of the vast territory and the various connotations the concept "violence" covers, should we use it in a well-defined restrictive sense or would it be more fruitful to have a more inclusive connotation of violence?
Due to voluminosity, we have devided the book into two volumes. Volume 1 starts with K. Ramakrishna Rao's essay on "Identity-violence: Gandhi's Approach". It deals with the problem of group identity. Identity, says Rao, is basically of two kinds - personal and social/group. Group identity consists in the categorization of people as belonging to particular groups based on such factors as caste, gender, religion, and region.
According to Rao, terrorist attacks on 26 November 2008, by young Pakistani men in Mumbai on innocent civilians, acts of Madigas of Scheduled Castes setting fire to Gandhi Bhavan in Andhra Pradesh for purposes of reservation are some instances for violence-based on group identity. On the other hand, increasing number of suicides by farmers, dowry deaths, and other sorts of violence against women and female foetus are some other examples for conflicts originally rooted at individual level.
While recognizing the necessity to identify the problem of group identity and the etiology of problem, Rao attempts to trace out the resolving method through Gandhian approach. To Gandhi, violence is not the same as inflicting physical injury; he uses it rather in a more inclusive sense. Indulging in greed, pilfering, untruth, intimidation causing physical or psychological injury or pain, sabotage, racial and religious conflicts are some forms of violence. For Gandhiji, nonviolence is not absence of violence. It is a positive force that transforms violence into nonviolence. Nonviolence does not consist in suppression of violence but in the practice of nonviolence. Nonviolence and violence refer to good and evil in human condition. Gandhi's goal is to drive evil out by cultivating the good. Rao concludes that Gandhi's philosophy of life may be described in one word, sarvodaya. Sarvodaya is Gandhi's slogan for cultivating altruism which consists in finding one's happiness in the happiness of others.
In his "Jaina Approach to (A)himsa" Saroj Kanta Kar observes that for the Jainas himsa consists in various activities ranging from hurting to killing. They also do not disagree with the common view that ahimsa is opposite to or negating of himsa, except in the case that a positive intension of well-being associated with himsa. They make this point obvious by differentiating between bahya himsa and antarhimsa, and prefer avoidance of himsa in both the ways. The Jaina scriptures discussed ahimsa over centuries together and this conception gets refined gradually in different texts by different authors.
In his "(A)himsa in Buddhism" Kar holds that like Jainism, Buddhism too disapproves himsa and preaches ahimsa as a noble moral virtue as a spiritual practice. In Buddhism, ahimsa comes first in the practice of sila. Whoever enters into Buddhism, first takes up the precept that he or she observes the training rule of abstaining from killing. Himsa has been condemned and avoided, and ahimsa has been praised and practised for moral and spiritual percept. Like in Vedism and Jainism, the whole range in Buddhism is based on the philosophical view of karma and causation, and the final aim was spiritual benefit: realization of ultimate deliberation in the form of buddhatva and nirvana.
In "(A)himsa: Classical Indian Perspective", Kar analyses the distinction between himsa and ahimsa. He examines the reasons for negative attitude towards himsa and expounds the taxonomy of the concepts of himsa and ahimsa in classical Indian tradition. Interestingly this paper raises the question of "just-war and self-defence". The differences between the general, Vedic, and ascetic accounts of ahimsa are also discussed.
Anwar Alam, in his "Islam and Violence" says that Islamic history, like any other branch of history, is not free of occurrence of violence. But to say that violence in Islamic history flows from the very structure of Islam is absolutely misleading and fabricating the historical reality. In the historical records of Islam, says Anwar Alam, violence has played a very marginal role in the rapid expansion and consolidation of Islam. The violence-related incidents in Islamic history are of the same pattern which is found in other history. The author argues, it is difficult to establish that contemporary form of violence, terrorism, has its roots in the classical period of Islam. The present-day terror-related violence in the Muslim world is specific to modern times and contexts and does not bear any resemblance to the Islamic past. In Islamic Law, suicide is considered as illegal and illegitimate as God only is entitled to take away life.
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